Friday, October 14, 2011

Recipe and Tasting Notes - Pumpkin Ale (ver. 1)

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Pumpkin Ale
3 gallons; extract

Brewed: 7.31.11
ABV: 5%
Grade: B-

After being disappointed so many times by so many pumpkin beers, I knew better than to expect much from one of my own. Commercial pumpkin beers either come out as a kind-of-generic brown-ale-plus-spices (most of them), or something really random and different (Sixpoint Autumnation, New Belgium Kick, etc.) Only a few of them strive for solid pumpkin pie flavor and really, really hit it, while still setting themselves apart from the pack (Southern Tier Pumking.)

I knew I wasn't going to be able to remotely approach the lofty heights of Pumking on my first shot at a pumpkin beer, but I absorbed what lessons I could by reading hours' worth of threads on homebrewing forums (no one seems to have this really figured out, which I thought was interesting.) I set my expectations pretty low for this one — my goal was to get a nice pumpkiny flavor without doing anything crazy in the base recipe. I wanted it to be light — something different from all those rich, malty takes on the style.

Of course, I was taking a cue from Pumking here too. Pumking is one of the lightest, clearest ales I've seen, regardless of style — this year's batch is almost wine-like in clarity, despite its imperial ABV, so it's obvious they go easy on the caramel malts. But here, I made my major miscalculation: I wanted to see if I could bring in some body and creaminess by adding lactose sugar. (Lactose sugar is what's used in milk stouts to give them their sweet, creamy body.) I was aiming for a much lower gravity, sessionable beer, and lactose sugar isn't usually used in lighter beers, so I knew that throwing some in mine would be a risk. But since this was an experiment, I figured what the hell. I knew that this wouldn't be the most exciting beer I've made, but I wanted to tip-toe in the direction of Pumking, figuring I'd have to figure out a few tricks along the way before I could get what I wanted.

Brewing & Tasting Notes:
And as a result, this is not one of my great successes. I have no problem saying that, because it's still in line with my expectations. Actually, it's very in line with what I expected. It's an average beer, but in some ways it's an improvement on many commercial pumpkin beers I've had — for my tastes, at least. By that I mean, it's not super malty. It is much sweeter than I like, and that's definitely the repercussion I suffered for adding lactose sugar. Lactose sugar has a kind of flat, bland sweetness that hits more as an aftertaste than a flavor enhancer. So, this beer would certainly be better without it, and I'm not sure it did anything to make the body more creamy or smooth. This definitely does not taste anything like a "light" version of Pumking.

Other than that, Bear Flavored Pumpkin #1 is still pretty decent. I was most concerned with the spices and pumpkin coming through, and they do, and seemingly in the right proportions. They're not potent or overwhelming, but they compliment the light body of the beer. I will probably add a bit more spice in the future. If the actual pumpkin I added (to the boil) made a difference, I'm not sure. But it would feel wrong to brew a pumpkin beer without any pumpkin, anyway.

Now, I know this beer wouldn't be very interesting without the spices. And I realize that's a bad way to go about brewing a spiced beer, but this was a hastily thrown-together experiment, and I didn't care if the pumpkin spices were the most interesting part of it. That was the point. I wish it was less sweet and lacked that flat lactose sugar flavor, but other than that, it's pretty solid. For a lighter beer, this has a nice flavor, a smooth mouthfeel, and is easily drinkable. I have much higher hopes for pumpkin ale #2 — a much more complex recipe, at least as far as the grain bill — that should be coming along in a couple weeks.

 0.4 lb caravienne / 0.4 lb 40L
Extract- 3 lb light DME
Other Fermentatables- 
0.25 lb brown sugar / 0.33 lb lactose sugar
Hop Schedule-
0.75 oz EKG @60
0.25 oz EKG @10
Yeast- Wyeast Scottish Ale
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean

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